During the summer of 2007, the Boston Celtics were bobbin’ and weavin’ their way to oblivion. The once-proud franchise was digging its way out of the rubble of a ghastly 24-58 season, writers and fans alike were calling for the head of coach Doc Rivers, and the team was spinning its wheels with “talent” like Gerald Green, Sebastian Telfair and, gulp, Michael Olowokandi.
Paul Pierce had just finished up his eighth season with the team and was hoping — praying — to be playing anywhere but Boston in 2007-08. An erratic 20-year-old point guard named Rajon Rondo showed flashes of promise sprinkled among maddeningly inconsistent play, and third-year center Kendrick Perkins was looking more like a basketball player and less like a moose that had wandered onto the interstate.
But no one was prepared for the stunning moves which immediately thrust the team back toward significance: the draft-night trade for Ray Allen (and Glen Davis) and the 8-for-1 deal for Kevin Garnett one month later. Lost in the flotsam and jetsam sent west in those two deals was the only player of significance the Celtics relinquished: Al Jefferson.
Two deals that were among the biggest heists in recent NBA history, yet the giddy anticipation of a string of titles has yielded to the sobering reality that this meticulously constructed team is simply a one-and-done phenomenon.
And shouldn’t it have been so much more than this?
The window of opportunity for multiple championships was understandably narrow, but the 17th championship banner raised in 2008 looks like it will be the only one from this group. Age and injury have simply rendered this team insignificant.
Yet, who knows what the future holds? Will Rondo finally mature into the electric — and consistent — ballplayer management thinks he can be? Does Paul Pierce still have two or three more years of gas left in the tank? Can Jujuan Johnson blossom into a poor man’s Kevin Durant? Would Dwight Howard ever consider coming to Boston next season when Garnett and Allen’s salaries come off the books?
So many questions, not nearly enough answers. In the meantime, Celtics fans will be forced to endure nights like Wednesday’s loss to Oklahoma City: a 27-point deficit that gets sliced to six with just over three minutes to go, only to have the wheels fall off in a flurry of turnovers and missed shots.
“We saw some positive things. Guys wouldn’t give up,” Pierce said after the team’s fifth straight loss. Words you never would have expected to hear when the new Big Three era dawned.